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Billions of dollars could be saved by axing regulations, Obama administration finds

May 26, 2011 |  9:46 am

Obama turbine
Federal agencies have identified dozens of regulations that could be eliminated, saving businesses and local governments tens of millions of hours of form-filing and billions of dollars in costs over time, the Obama administration said Thursday.

The proposals, a few of which already have been enacted or are in their final stages, come after a government-wide review ordered by President Obama in January to weed out overly burdensome rules. Obama has been under fire from Republicans and business groups for increasing regulatory burdens, particularly after the enactment last year of sweeping overhauls of healthcare and financial regulations.

"The objective was to ... make sure that the regulations on the book do what they were intended to do and they do it at the lowest possible costs," Jacob Lew, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said of what he called an unprecedented government review.

"This is not a onetime project. This is the beginning of what will become a new way of doing business" for federal agencies, he said. The regulatory reduction plans from 30 federal agencies and departments are available at the White House website and open for comments from the public. . . .

As an example, administration officials cited a new final rule to be announced Thursday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would eliminate more than 1.9 million annual hours of "redundant reporting requirements" for employers, saving more than $40 million a year in costs.

The agency also is finalizing a proposed rule to harmonize hazard classifications and labels with those from other countries, which the administration projected would save businesses $585 million a year.

In another example, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose eliminating an obligation in many states for air pollution vapor recovery systems at gas stations because of improved technology in newer vehicles. The move, if approved, would save about $670 million over the next decade, the White House said.

"These are reflections of conversations that agencies and departments have been having with members of the public," said Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has battled the Obama administration over business issues, said the recommendations represented progress but didn't go far enough.

“Although we have yet to review all the details, it appears the administration is making some common-sense recommendations that will save businesses some time, money, headaches and resources," said Bill Kovacs, the group's senior vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs. 

But he added, "What we need is a plan to make our flawed regulatory system smarter, less intrusive and more accountable." The Chamber of Commerce called for greater congressional oversight of regulations that have a major economic impact; cost-benefit analyses and scientific reviews entirely conducted by independent third parties; and changes to make it easier to challenge rules in court.


Obama moves to weed out burdensome federal rules

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: President Obama speaks at a Pennsylvania wind-energy turbine factory in April. Credit: William Thomas Cain / Getty Images